Shonda Rhimes has done it again, this time with fewer scrubs, more ballgowns, and a whole load of scandal. Netflix’s Bridgerton – a saucy cross between Gossip Girl and a Jane Austin novel – has tongues wagging all across the globe. Here’s what we thought.
Based on the eight-novel Bridgerton collection, by best-selling romance author Julia Quinn, Bridgerton follows the story of two prominent figures in London high society – the demure Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) and the strikingly handsome Simon Basset (Regé-Jean Page), recently become Duke of Hastings, as they unite to fool a tabloid writer who somehow knows all of societies greatest secrets – and scandals.
The writings of the mysterious Lady Whistledown fuel much of the show’s drama, and throughout the riveting first season, theories about who the real author may be abound. Perhaps its this, or perhaps its the extravagant costume and set design, the fantastically colourblind casting, or the delightfully contemporary score which accompanies the regency drama, which have turned Bridgerton into one of Netflix’s most successful shows of all time. Then again, it could have something to do with the fact that everything Rhimes touches turns into a glittering success.
“Unapologetically daft, it luxuriates in playing with the form and conventions of costume dramas, instilling them with modern storytelling chops and the sort of overblown production I last saw in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette,” writes Lanre Bakare in his review for the Guardian. “It sees the Regency period through American eyes, highlighting the things that people like most about British aristocratic tropes: the grandeur, the pomp and the gilded cages. The repressed sexuality is still on show, but it is countered by unapologetically rampant bonking and homoerotic boxing”.
But the show is about far more than that. It raises questions of what the world could have been like were it to have forgone many of the arbitrary racial divides that society – in the real world, not controlled by Shonda Rhimes – chose to embrace. It’s a stark reminder of how women were forced to orient themselves around marriage matches and childbirth – things many of us these days have the freedom to put off or ignore entirely without being considered freaks of nature.
By casting actors of every colour as characters of equal standing, Bridgerton has perhaps opened the door to period dramas for many viewers who would not have seem themselves represented in the genre before. Indeed, films and series of the kind have often been predominantly white, with what few characters of colour there were being limited to servants or peripheral characters. Bridgerton, on the other hand, sees the colours of its characters only outdone by the Featherington girls’ bold wardrobe. It’s remarkably refreshing and a trend I hope to see carried out a lot more in future.
And speaking of refreshing:
Can we jump back to the soundtrack for a second? Perhaps taking a page out of Reign‘s leather-bound book, Orchestral renditions of Billy Eilish and Ariana Grande frame the drama in a way that thrills and delights –adding a little bit of musical spice to what may otherwise have been a slightly less interesting ball scene.
There are a couple of other interesting and valuable talking points for viewers to enjoy once they’ve completed the first season, such as this one, published on Vox (Watch the show before you click this button, or you’ll risk spoiling a lot of the series for yourself.):
You wont be lacking conversation topics next time you host a (socially distanced) luncheon or go for a promenade, that’s for sure!
Costume dramas based in the 1800s are, admittedly, not for everyone, but perhaps it’s worth giving this one a shot. Bridgerton definitely has a quality that most that have come before it have lacked, and you may just find yourself surprised by home much you enjoyed this one.
It seems likely that, on account of the coronavirus pandemic, Bridgerton fans may have to wait for 2022 to indulge in the show’s second juicy season. We can only hope that in the meanwhile Netflix will grant us something half as distracting to tide us over while we wait.